Uber is standing before the European Union Court of Justice in a fight for its business life, at least in Europe.
Spain, France, and Ireland are of the opinion that Uber is a transport service, an illegal taxi service the business model of which is predicated on avoiding existing regulations.
Uber's position is that it is merely a digital platform connecting willing drivers with customers. This is nonsense for four reasons.
First, if a business is able to ignore existing laws simply because introductions are facilitated via the Internet, then an Internet prostitution business -- it might be called Legen -- should also be legal.
Second, Uber could still run its business if its app were replaced by an army of Chinese or Indian, English-speaking operators, though admittedly response time would suffer. Its direct relationship to drivers is what makes Uber function.
Third, Uber drivers have shown a disturbing tendency to take sexual advantage of female customers -- we've seen this in Boston, Hawaii, Los Angeles, Chicago, and other cities -- because its drivers are not vetted and licensed by local authorities. There have even been rapes by faux Uber drivers. We never hear of licensed taxi drivers raping passengers.
And fourth, it is going back in time to when workers were treated much worse than they are today. The law is American, not European, but the principles are the same.
The court of Chief Justice Melville Weston Fuller decided Lochner v. New York (1905) in an Uber-manner. New York passed the Bakeshop Act in 1897 forbidding bakers to work more than 60 hours in one week. Joseph Lochner, the owner of Lochner's Home Bakery in Utica, wanted his employees to work longer than 60 hours. The court held that setting maximum working hours for bakers was unconstitutional because it was an absolute interference "with the right of contract between the employer and employees," with the right to buy and sell labor through contract being a protected "liberty of the individual."
The court of Chief Justice William Howard Taft similarly decided Adkins v. Children's Hospital (1923) in an Uber-manner. Citing Lochner, the court struck down a law creating a minimum wage law for women, stating that it was "an arbitrary interference with the liberty of contract which no government can legally justify in a free land." The court held that the law was especially "arbitrary" because it imposed uniform minimum wages on all women regardless of their individual needs or occupations.
Lochner and Adkins were not that far removed from Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), only the slavery was of an economic nature.
The court of Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes was more enlightened with its ruling on West Coast Hotel v. Parrish (1937), overturning both Lochner and Adkins. Elsie Parrish, a chambermaid at the West Coast Hotel, sued the hotel on the grounds that it had not paid her Washington State's minimum wages. The court held that the "Constitution does not speak of freedom of contract" and that such a freedom is thus "a qualified, and not an absolute, right" under the Fourteenth Amendment. The court finally understood that being paid less is hardly a shining example of freedom, something the many Uber drivers suing to be recognized as regular employees understand only too well.
Perhaps the European Union Court of Justice will have its West Coast Hotel eureka moment.